Conventions are where the wall between fan and celebrity is thinned, and every Comic-Con presents an increased chance for interaction. Often actors and other artists attend as part of the promotion for their latest project, hoping to excite their fans as well attract the uninitiated to what they’re doing.
While not exactly obligated to hang with fans, many actors will address their questions on panels, sign autographs, take photos, and say hello at various booths. This can be both good and bad depending on how things shake out, but there are certain do's and don'ts to follow that will not only improve your experience as a fan, but everyone else’s. So, if you plan on attending upcoming conventions such as Heroes & Villains FanFest New York or Walker Stalker Atlanta, you might want to check out these tips beforehand.
Relax: Take some deep breaths before you approach that actor in that thing you love. Relaxed people speak clearer, get their points across easier, and are more likely to put others at ease. Things go smoother for everyone if there’s a sense of calm on both sides. If you simply can’t relax, just say so. You’re not the first nervous person this artist has met, but your honesty will be a refreshing heads up.
Be Patient: No matter who you want to meet you’re likely going to be in a long, slow-moving line that you can’t do anything about. So what’s a fan to do? Try those breaths suggested earlier. Consider that those ahead of you might be meeting their first celebrity ever and therefore too excited to consider the time they might be taking up. It's also possible the celebrity is taking his/her time and they’ll be sure to do the same with you if you remain patient and approach with an excited smile.
Research Beforehand: Check the times that an artist is available at their booth and on panels. You might not get to see everything and everyone you want, but at least it won’t be due to your own disorganization. At a booth make sure the artist is open to what you want whether it be a photo, autograph, or simple meet and greet. Some booths post what is and isn’t allowed, for others you'll have to ask those working the convention. Either way always double check with staff before approaching the artist.
Be Prepared: As you get closer to the front of the line put all unnecessary items away; hand them off to a friend, put them in one big bag, fill your pockets, whatever’s necessary. If you plan to do a photo/selfie keep your phone out and easily accessible. If it’s a photo-op do your last appearance check before tucking your phone away. Going for an autograph? It never hurts to have a pen and what you’d like signed at the ready and, if you must purchase a picture to be signed, have the money out beforehand.
Be Polite: Going beyond the basic pleasantries of “please” and “thank you” this also involves smiling in the face of setbacks. Last year I met a pair of fans at Boston’s Walker Stalker Convention who spent a substantial time in line to see Michael Cudlitz from #TheWalkingDead only to find out he had to leave as they reached the front. This would absolutely be cause for a pout or grumbling eye roll, but instead they simply gave a sad smile and went to leave. Ultimately, because they’d gotten so close and made no fuss about being turned away, they were rewarded with free VIP passes for the following day or a future #WalkerStalker. Rewards such as these are not guaranteed, but I seriously doubt they'd have gotten anything if they’d made a scene.
Intrude: As mentioned, artists have scheduled times when they’re at panels or booths and other times set aside just for them. What they choose to do with their own time varies - some go out on the floor, some hide away - but it should always be respected. If you see someone famous walking the floor, in or out of costume, leave them to do so. If they’re eating out in public, don’t approach them. You can smile and wave, say hello, but do not presume to use up their personal time with your fan time. They'll be grateful and more likely to mix and mingle with fans in the future.
Sneak A Pic: It’s super tempting to take a quick picture of a celebrity when you spot them, but don’t do it. Beyond the fact they might be charging at booths, it’s distracting and disrespectful to those who’ve been waiting politely for theirs. It's not okay to do while out on the convention floor either, if it’s done without permission. Celebrities may grow accustomed to paparazzi, but that doesn’t mean the experience of others surreptitiously taking their picture isn’t disconcerting. Think of it this way: if you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to them. If you really want that picture and know you can't get it later wait until they seem approachable and simply explain the situation before asking. If you approach and ask they’re more likely to agree and might even grant a spare selfie or chat.
Judge: Some guests do meet and greets, some don’t. Some do selfies, others only photo-ops, and still others just autographs of predesignated items. At first this can be discouraging. Who wants to pay (again!) to meet their favorite celebrity? Yet consider that both guests and convention workers want to streamline things. Meet and greets might actually lessen the number of fans seen as people risk taking up more time than appropriate in their excitement. Selfies can be tricky as people fuss with phones and the way the picture comes out. And professional photo-ops are an ordeal onto themselves. There’s also the possibility that these artists are introverts, shy, or otherwise uncomfortable having to chat with total strangers. Having “photos and autographs only” rules save them from that discomfort. It lessens their stress and makes them more amiable to the fans they do see.
Confuse Them With Their Art: Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan has commented in the past about instances in which fans have yelled at or even threatened him because Negan (his character on The Walking Dead) killed two fan favorites. He is not the first artist to experience this and won't be the last either. It's easy to see an actor and think of their latest character - especially if they're good at their job - but they are not one and the same. If you really want to address your rage at the character they've played, turn it into a compliment. Note how you love the way they play such a dastardly character and are able to get you so emotionally invested in the show (or film). They'll be thrilled to have had such an affect on the audience and won't worry that you can't tell reality from fiction.
Get Too Personal: Artists love to hear stories about how their work affected the lives of their fans. They want to know that they were able to give others some level of joy or comfort through their performance. Sharing those stories is a great idea. There is such a thing as oversharing though. Telling them you named your puppy after a character they played is touching, telling them you moved into their neighborhood is unnerving. Asking about their inspiration is a great question, asking about their dating life isn't. They're going to smile and respond at the first one in each example, but probably shut you down at the second.
Things may not always go your way, no matter what you do, but you can ensure that you have a great time no matter what. Just be sure to relax, enjoy your experiences, and have empathy. Have it for the celebrity guests and other fans as well. Look at things from the perspective of others and don’t let small frustrations or disappointments ruin your convention. This is a time where you can meet some of your idols, something that might otherwise be impossible, so make the most if it. You are surrounded by like-minded people, enjoy it and them, with all of your fandom heart.
What tips do you have for meeting celebrities?